Hillside house: helping adults with developmental disabilities

Hillside house: helping adults with developmental disabilities

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There are some cases where disability or developmental disabilities hit our family members. They could be because of an accident or just by heritage. Either way, having a disability is a tough thing for the person and for the family around such person becoming a struggle for everybody.

Fortunately, there are institutions that have the special facilities and staff that these very special people need in order to live a healthy and productive life. These institutions have been around enough to understand the issue first hand and to know what to provide for these types of patients and their family.

On this occasion, we are going to talk about one of these charities based in Santa Barbara, California. Their name is Hillside House and they aim at providing a healthy environment and a really cozy place where people with disabilities can reach their full potential and have the support of all the staff around them to maximize their physical, cognitive, social and emotional abilities. This in turn, will make disabled people be more independent and interact with their surrounding in a better way.

Let’s take a look at their history and how they came to be what they are today.

Their story comes from the late 1930’s with an event that also touched Hollywood greatest. George Cukor who was part of the movie industry in Hollywood had a niece who suffered of a mental paralysis or cerebral Palsy and he recruited a nurse, Muriel Evans, straight from London who was specialized in taking care of people with developmental disabilities. The idea was for her to work in  Ojai and to be part of Cukor´s niece process and to help her have a normal life, a life that she could enjoy and live to the fullest despite her health issues.

These were the first steps on Hillside house. But then Miss Evans was contacted by Joan Flanders who was a physiotherapist from New Zealand and was very interested in Evans work with Cukor’s niece and wanted to help out and to apply his knowledge to such a process. The two of them had the idea to create and grow an institution that helped people with cerebral palsy and try to advertise the place as a treatment center for mental illnesses. Their first venue was in 501 North Ontare Road in Santa Barbara and they had 15 residents from different ages and different backgrounds.

After more than 10 years, in 1945 Hillside House became a California Non-Profit Corporation with all the financial benefits that this type of step brings to the people.  When this was happening, Miss Evans was transferring her powers to Cecil Cooprider who became the manager when the Second World War ended.  In that time the Board of Directors decided that they needed a larger facility where they could accept more patients and provide even more therapeutic services to the patients and their families. The board of directors set their eyes on a 30 acres land on Veronica Springs Road, known as “Pine Grove Farm.” They started by raising money and doing many successful fundraising campaigns during 2 years from 1947 to 1949 and they began to negotiate the purchase of the land which was then acquired in the year 1951. It was not an easy task as Cecil Cooprider, his wife Loretta, and the Board of Directors had to get a lot of donations from many people around the city. And they got them. The received very big donations from a wide group of people and organizations; they got very big discounts on everything that had to do with construction and all the contractors gave them very big price reliefs on their services. Construction was completed in 1955 and the facility could hold up to  59 residents. It didn’t take long for the facility to be filled to capacity.

Image courtesy of Dheepak Ra at Flickr.com

As part of their story,  Cecil Cooprider left an amazing legacy when he retired after 35 years of service to the charity. He closed an agreement with the Assistance League of Santa Barbara in order to have them volunteer for many of the Hillside activities with the residents. The Assistance League is still a big part of Hillside House and they try to cover every need Hillside has. In fact, in 1965 the Assistance League moved next door to Hillside House and they have been neighbors ever since, helping each other and exchanging experiences and knowledge.

Sometimes we don’t even realize how hard it is for people with disabilities to just live a normal life. Everybody gets involved in the process and while it is hard and sometimes painful, it could also be very gratifying and joyful to see a person overcoming an illness and smile at life even though it is not as easy as it is for the rest.

Be sure to also read this post on a charity that is helping out victims of domestic violence.

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